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Call of the Wild: Reviews for the High School Classroom

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Jack London's Call of the Wild has delighted high school students for years. Refresh your knowledge of this captivating book with a brief summary and then try out some of these activities with your students to get them thinking about the book's themes.

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    Summary of Call of the Wild

    Refresh your memory with a summary of The Call of the Wild

    Buck enjoys his life as man's best friend on Judge Miller's farm until the Judge's idiot gardener sells him to gold prospectors headed to the Yukon. Buck's new life as a sled dog is full of hardship and struggle. He adapts and eventually becomes the team's most reliable musher and leader of the pack after defeating his enemy, Spitz, in a death battle. After being sold to a pair unfamiliar with the ways of Frosty Canada, Buck is mistreated and nearly killed. John Thornton, a veteran of the Great North saves him and makes him part of his family. Buck's true freedom occurs when he heeds the call of the wild and heads into the Canadian wilderness to be with his soulmates.

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    Activities for Analysis

    The following literary elements can be taught while teaching Jack London's Call of the Wild:

    • Elements of Naturalism: The indifference of nature (there's a reason London's stories take place in Alaska and not the Caribbean) and the presence of uncontrollable forces that shape destiny are two elements of Naturalism present in Jack London's novel.
    • Conflict: Although external conflict exists, the ultimate conflict rests within Buck's soul as he straddles the line between domestication and the call of the wild. Man vs. Nature also plays a major role in works of Naturalism.
    • Character: The main character of the novel is a dog. However, human readers relate to him. Adapt this fun Shakespeare lesson plan and interview Buck. Kids'll love it.
    • Setting: There may be snow, but these guys aren't skiing; they're dog-sledding to the Northwest Territory in search of gold. The setting takes on a life of its own.
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    Student Readability and Appropriateness

    Kids love dogs. Kids love snow. Kids love stories about dogs in the snow. Keep in mind when the book was written. Any literary work that takes more than two-pages to develop is sometimes lost on today's instant gratification society. Other Jack London supplemental works include:

    • White Fang: similar to Call of the Wild except White Fang is born in the wilderness and Buck is kidnapped into the wilderness.
    • "To Build A Fire": This short story tells of one man's struggle to build a fire before he freezes to death.